Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Children of Mothers Who Smoked During Pregnancy Face High Obesity Risk

Pregnant women who smoke may be sentencing their child to adolescent obesity, in part due to subtle structural variations in the child's amygdala. Researchers presented in the online September 3 Archives of General Psychiatry the results of their evaluation of 378 adolescents enrolled in the Saguenay Youth Study in Quebec, Canada. Half of the subjects were exposed prenatally to maternal cigarette smoking, and those teens exhibited a higher total body fat than peers who were not exposed. They also exhibited a lower amygdala volume. Consistent with its possible role in limiting fat intake, amygdala volume correlated inversely with fat intake.

The study population had high genetic and cultural homogeneity, and both exposed and nonexposed participants did not differ on factors such as number of family meals, intake of fruits and vegetables, and family income. The researchers said their findings are consistent with the fetal-programming hypothesis of obesity and suggest that prenatal exposure to maternal cigarette smoking may contribute by modifying fat intake through neural mechanisms involving the amygdala.

In the general population, women smoke less than men, but among depressed individuals, men's and women's smoking rates are the same. Read more about that topic in Psychiatric News, here.
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